Team principal Toto Wolff says Mercedes is staying true to its “bold” approach of last season by retaining its slim sidepods, but hints the layout could change during the coming year.
Mercedes upgraded its W13 at the Bahrain test in 2022 and introduced a radical sidepod design, but couldn’t harness the performance of its car and struggled for much of the season. This year’s layout is similar in that area and Wolff says it’s not deemed to be a major performance differentiator under the Mercedes concept but that it could move toward other ideas as the season goes on.
“It is important to be bold in this sport, and I am still proud of the solutions we put into the car last year,” Wolff said. “The narrow sidepod is not something that we believe is fundamentally the reason that we didn’t perform.
“There are no ‘holy cows’ in our concept. It’s not that we don’t want to follow anybody’s idea. We stayed with the narrow sidepod as it is, but you could well see some development from now on which could come with upgrades and the sidepods will change — not very soon, but we are looking at solutions. But it is not a core, fundamental part of performance for us as we judge it.
“Throughout last season we have analyzed it back and forth, whether it was right or not, and obviously you can see the sidepods are very different to any other car. But we believe this is not the performance-relative part.
“We are looking at everything and the sidepods, this is the first iteration and when we are going through the first few races, that’s going to change a little bit. But if you want to change a concept completely you’re making not one step back but probably two or three and that’s why we stayed where we are. And I love the fact that we stayed bold, and we are just continuing to follow what the science says for us.”
Wolff also says there won’t be a major overhaul of the W14 at the pre-season test in Bahrain this year due to the issues encountered in 2022, with Mercedes keen to gain as much understanding with the car that will race at the start of the year as possible.
“Last year we learned a tough lesson because we knew that we were going to bring an upgrade package for test number two, that was worth a second and a half. And in a way you are then looking at the first test and think, ‘Well it’s not relevant because it’s not the real car.’ But we put it on the track and it wasn’t performing at all as we expected.
“This year, we went the other way around. What you have seen is, in large part, the car we will test and race, because it is fundamentally important to understand the platform and how the car behaves, rather than keeping some bits in the background that may have a tenth or two on pure aero performance.”